In the words of George Gershwin, from his opera, Porgy and Bess, “Summertime, and the livin’ is easy…..” It’s time to kick off our socks and shoes and feel the warmth on our hardworking feet. It’s very tempting to walk about in our bare feet, enjoying the softness of the grass and squishing the sand between our toes.
However, for people with diabetes and other people with decreased nerve sensitivity and circulation in their feet, walking barefoot could turn a pleasant summer day into a medical dilemma. Diminished ability to feel different sensations in the feet as well as poor wound healing due to poor circulation can cause problems.
A person who cannot adequately detect sensations of pain will not be aware of cuts to their feet, especially the bottom and in between the toes. It is not unusual for a diabetic patient to be unaware that they have developed a cut, splinter or other abrasion until someone, such a certified foot care nurse, detects the issue. By then, there is often the beginning of an infection which must be dealt with aggressively. The existence of poor circulation, which goes together with poor nerve functioning, means that the body needs help fighting the infection. Diabetics have a higher than average incidence of lower leg amputations. Even the smallest infection can quickly become very aggressive.
Another reason it is never a good idea for diabetics to walk in bare feet is the decreased ability to feel changes in temperature. The pavement as well as the sandy beach can be problematic if we are unable to detect how hot these surfaces can become. It is easy to scorch and burn the bottoms of the feet without realizing it. Even a minor burn can become a major infection.
Without the protection of sandals or other appropriate footwear, it is possible to develop fungal, viral and bacterial infections from walking on public surfaces such as pool decks, saunas, change rooms. Plantar warts, athlete’s foot and toenail fungus are the most common conditions that are picked up from these surfaces.
Because we tend to perspire more in warm weather, athlete’s foot is a common problem. Again, in diabetics and others with nerve/circulation deficits, athlete’s foot must be diligently treated. Athlete’s foot that is allowed to spread can cause abrasions and infection. Read about why athlete’s foot is dangerous in diabetics and what to do about it here.
Don’t forget to liberally apply sunscreen to your feet when wearing sandals. Skin cancer in the feet often goes undetected. For a primer on skin cancer and the feet, as well as pictures of what different skin cancers look like, read here.
We often develop dry, cracked heels in the summer because of the amount of activity we do and because of the effects of the sun and hot weather on the skin. Here are 8 tips for dealing with dry, cracked heels.
As well, with our toes exposed, women enjoy the pampering of pedicures. Be educated about getting a safe maniciure/pedicure, here.
Wear well-fitted sandals that support your feet. Check your feet daily, once in the morning and once in the evening. If this is difficult to do, have someone check your feet for you or use a mirror held against the bottom of your foot to get a good view.
It’s easy to take care of our feet while we enjoy the beautiful weather. Have a wonderful summer!